As SUVs and CUVs gobble up the U.S. market and leave passenger cars in the dust, the search for a reliable, affordable and enthusiastic coupe has become a scavenger hunt, scouring the land for mere survivors of this mass extinction.
Gone are the days of tarted-up two-door variants of mainstream sedans. To make an affordable coupe into a successful and recognizable name in 2019 entails an enticing marketing campaign, the most current technology, and most importantly construction of a compelling and dynamic car. These ten coupes cost thousands less than the upscale two-doors they compete with on the highway and serve twice the style and attitude.
10 2019 Hyundai Veloster - $18,500
Hyundai’s only current entry in the sports coupe market is the aggressively-styled (and aggressively-named) Veloster, a unique three-door hatchback coupe with a spunky attitude and a wallet-friendly MSRP of $18,500. Legroom in the rear measures 34 inches - not exactly a Maybach limousine, but markedly more than competitors in the segment, if they even offer a rear seat to begin with.
Combine that stat with the nearly 20 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row, or 44 with the seats folded, and the Veloster’s practicality becomes harder to beat. Consider Hyundai’s legendary 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty and it is clear this coupe is a sure bet for a reliably fun daily-driver.
9 2019 Volkswagen Beetle - $20,895
A household name can still be relatable, and that is the whole point with the Volkswagen Beetle. The name and shape are eternally correlated, burned into every passenger’s mind who has ever been punched on account of a Beetle. Millions have given this little car a go over its long lifetime and the current iteration is the very last as production wraps up in Mexico, meaning this year is the last that a brand-new Beetle can be purchased from a Volkswagen dealership.
For $20,895, a piece of history is attainable without taking out a second mortgage. An efficient turbocharged engine is the cherry on top of the coupe cake, hauling the Beetle around like a go-cart. It’s a modern coupe for a modern driver who still has admiration for the way things used to be.
8 2019 Fiat 500 - $21,910
“The Italians are coming! The Italians are coming!” A flashy marketing campaign, a loud slogan, vibrant commercials, celebrity endorsements and a special edition marked with the iconic Gucci name: all of the following led to the re-introduction of Fiat to the U.S. market, and all was borne by the Cinque Cento: the 500.
Armed with a cute face, circular headrests and a remarkably sizeable interior, the 500 became like catnip for customers who needed something more in-between than the Toyota Yaris, Ford Focus or Honda Fit. The 500 gives charisma and character to a segment where bargain-busting was the norm. An ostentatiously expensive Italian leather house branding their name on a sub-compact coupe costing less than $25K is about as flashy as it gets, and Fiat knows flashy.
7 2019 Dodge Challenger - $27,845
Long and low proportions (a whopping 197.9 inches in length, certifiably a boat) shape the Dodge Challenger into a truly formidable and sexy vehicle. It is inherently confrontational by design: a deeply-slung hood and muscular proportions harkening back to muscle cars of days past, and a performance range reaching up over 700hp and slinging over 4,000 pounds like a paper airplane.
Beginning at $27,845, the Challenger is an excellent pick for a stylish, no-frills coupe that boasts remarkable interior room. The current model has yet to be completely overhauled from its re-introduction in 2008, and while its looks certainly are not hurting sales, wondering what the next generation holds for this successful nameplate resurrection is sure to be interesting. One thing is for certain: they will be hybrids.
6 2019 BMW 2 Series - $35,300
As the lone premium and German vehicle on this list, the 2 Series argues its way in with spectral performance, astute handling, and a $35,300 base price. The driver benefits from a tall greenhouse, thin A- and C-pillars and a complete lack of B-pillar: visibility is excellent and the driver position is low and tight.
The small steering wheel adds to the particularly go kart-like drive that the 2 Series retains in each model in the lineup. It’s a glossier coupe than some muscle cars with which it competes in performance, and the range-topping M2 blasts away most competition in driving dynamics, heralded by some as the best BMW currently has to offer.
5 2019 Honda Civic Si - $24,300
Civic sport variants are notorious speed demons, and many have the critical support to back it up. The Honda Civic Si Coupe starts at $24,300 and neatly packs a 1.5L turbocharged four-cyliner engine with over 200hp into a tiny little engine bay, wrapping it up in a lightweight and incredibly well-engineered body.
As one of the best-selling cars in the U.S. the redesign of each new generation of Civic is extensively researched and tested and this most recent iteration was a smash. This is the coolest Honda Civic design the world has seen in a long time, if not all of time, and the Si edition is a delicious performance cherry on top of a coupe that is a real winner.
4 2019 Nissan 370Z - $30,090
For its 50th year of Z-car model production, the Nissan 370Z soldiers on into a new decade at $30,090, a fraction of the cost of competing models (of which there are few). The 370Z is a tightly-wrapped confection that has ripened well, currently in its twelfth year of production without a redesign.
It remains one of the most thrilling drives in a coupe for $30K. Creature comforts and modern tech fancies not your style? The 370Z “eschews all of that in favor of an engaged driver,” according to Car & Driver. That is purism in practice, a novel remark for any sports car and a great reason to consider the 370Z as an affordable coupe.
3 2020 Chevrolet Camaro - $34,995
At $25,000, falling right into the middle of starting MSRPs on this list, the Chevrolet Camaro is a smart and snappy choice for an active and aggressive daily-driver or a spirited and energetic weekend getaway-chaser. When the Camaro was re-introduced to battle the market-monopolizing Ford Mustang, it attained several years of successful sales and ushered in yet another wave of retro design language; it even won World Car Design of the Year when introduced.
To refocus and take back the ground lost to numerous competitors in the years since 2009, the 2019 Camaro is more modern and nuanced than it was previously. The fenders and front fascia were redesigned for a rounded, sleeker look, diverting from the retro muscle that the previous angular boxes conveyed.
2 2019 Subaru BRZ - $25,795
This one is almost a double-entry: though it is mechanically twinned with the Toyota 86, the Subaru BRZ gets the edge (and is one of the best affordable coupes on the market) because of its near-perfect blend of power, handling, efficiency, and price - it undercuts the Toyota by $860, coming in at $25,795.
The 2.0-liter, flat four-cylinder Subaru Boxer engine produces 205hp and whips the BRZ’s 2,789lb body around break-neck corners with deft agility thanks to its deliciously low center of gravity and a standard six-speed manual transmission suiting it for fun in all seasons.
1 2019 Ford Mustang - $26,395
For all the redesigns it has been through and all the decades its reign spans, the Ford Mustang is still one of the best coupes to buy for the money. It carries a historic nameplate that inspired the nomenclature used for an entire genre of sports car. It is agile and fast with classic proportions instantly recognizable to most. It is realistic, not difficult to drive, and rewarding in every sense.
For 2019, Ford brought back the Bullitt special edition, the perennial corporate tribute to Steve McQueen and the green Mustang he drove in the eponymous film. If any color will do, then the MSRP is $26,395 for the most iconic pony car of them all, and a fantastic, affordable coupe to call your own.